Uber now tracks you even after you’ve left the car

Big Brother Watch Team / December 7, 2016

You may have seen that the press are reporting Uber are now tracking app users’ locations even after the journey is over and the app is no longer active.

The hire-a-ride company now records a person’s location for up to five minutes after they have been dropped off. The firm claims it is so they can see where people go just after they are picked up and help refine the information they have on these locations. But is it really any of their business what we do once we get out of the vehicle or are they simply poking their nose into our lives with the weakest of explanations about benefiting their big data desires.

In the past, Uber only collected passenger data when the app was open. Now however, we learn that Uber tracks their devoted users even when the app is just running in the background…something most of us have no knowledge of anyway – do you know what apps are currently running in the background of your phone? No, because it’s not obvious.

Is there any way around this attack on our privacy we ask? Well yes there is, but unsurprisingly it is inconvenient to the user.  It involves users having to turn access to location services on each and every time they use Uber and then remember to turn it off again after. For the hardcore privacy minded amongst us, that’s not too greater hardship, but for the majority who worry about this stuff but just want to get on with their day, it is an inconvenience.  An inconvenience which companies such as Uber shouldn’t be imposing.

Why, we ask, can’t companies honour the desire for customers to have a choice which isn’t inconvenient, isn’t a pain to use and which, if we choose, won’t impinge upon our privacy?

Customers don’t want to be tracked all the time.They appreciate that services need access to certain data; such as location services, when the product is actively being used, but when that immediate engagement is over, stop spying on us. What we do when we aren’t engaging with you is not your business.

Once again it is Uber in the firing line, but let’s be honest it’s not just Uber is it? Countless companies continue to take liberties with the permission options in their apps.

We have long argued that firms must consider their users privacy, that changes to how data is gathered, used and retained must be made 100% clear and that users are given an option to continue to use the service but with privacy at the forefront of the process, not as some afterthought,  and not in a way which makes the service inconvenient or unusable.

It is possible to strike a balance. Where data sharing is an open, transparent but ultimately restricted act, restricted solely to the one time engagement of the transaction. Data gathering should not continue in the background against the users’ will or indeed knowledge. Any suggestion that snooping on what people do when they aren’t actively using the app will improve a user experience must be acknowledged as disingenuous.

With Uber’s market share giving them immense power its time they re-evaluated their methods and began pursuing a model of being privacy proud rather than privacy poor?